Universal Design for Learning
Guidance for Faculty on Universal Design and the Accommodations Process
CARDS has partnered with the Barnard Committee on Instruction (COI) to provide the below guidance to faculty for the Fall 2020 term:
Universal Design for Courses
In general, the more an instructor has thought about universal design for their course, the less need there is for individual accommodations. Please note, however, that because disabilities can vary widely, and the level of severity and impact can vary significantly depending on the individual’s situation and circumstances, individual accommodations may still be appropriate regardless of how well a course may be designed.
Things to consider for universal design when constructing your syllabus for online classes:
- Be flexible. Remember that any student taking online classes may have internet connectivity issues, may be caring for family members, may be managing a disability or chronic illness, or may be in different time zones. Consider offering alternatives for any participation requirements that significantly impact a student’s grade, such as discussion posts, response papers, recorded video responses, or presentations that demonstrate a student’s engagement with the material.
- Plan to administer exams virtually (via CourseWorks Canvas or through take-home assessments). Not only does this help with maintaining social distancing (both for you, CARDS staff, and students), but this can also help ensure course continuity in the event that another lockdown goes into effect.
- If you have concerns about academic integrity, remind students of the Honor Code and have them sign an honor statement.
- Be intentional about how students will meet learning objectives. Consider being judicious in the amount of assessments you’re giving-- think quality over quantity.
- As you’re setting up Canvas, be clear about where students can locate documents and deadlines. In addition to the syllabus, you might consider adding a separate schedule of reminders and deadlines to help students who struggle with executive functioning.
- Be willing to work collaboratively with CARDS and with your students.
- Use the CARDS Syllabus Statement (found below) to signal your willingness to accommodate students with disabilities.
Guidance for Accommodations in Different Learning Environments
Student accommodations differ depending on the learning environment (in-person versus online). Because barriers that exist in one learning environment may not exist in the other, the accommodation designed to reduce one barrier may not be the same in a different context. (For instance, some hard of hearing students may not need assistive technology in the classroom environment because they are deft at lip reading; by having preferential seating as an accommodation, which enables them to sit at the front of the class, they are able to understand everything being said. However, in an online context, any slight audio delay may render lip reading impossible. Therefore, in this situation, it would be appropriate to provide the student with real-time captioning services. Please consult CARDS and IMATS for guidance about closed-captioning. Similarly, students with ADHD who are taking online courses may have a harder time focusing than they would in the classroom environment. Faculty are encouraged to record their lectures and classes and make their material available for at least a short window of time to enable asynchronous learning for students with special circumstances. While recording class is ultimately at the faculty’s discretion, it is expected that faculty will accommodate the varied needs of their students to help them learn. Faculty might consider asking students to sign a class agreement about community standards that respects the intellectual property of every participant. Not only do recordings help students who are experiencing other barriers (those of location or access to technology), but it also reduces the barrier for students who need to take breaks in order to maintain sustained focus. In some instances, this may replace the student’s need for a peer notetaker, which they otherwise may have needed in the classroom environment.
Familiarize yourself with CARDS’s AIM Faculty Portal. This portal allows you to see students’ accommodation plans & electronically acknowledge them. You can also see notes that have been uploaded for your course by the assigned peer notetaker, add your TA to your course (for those who manage accommodation logistics), and search by accommodation eligibility. CARDS expects all faculty to use this portal for eligible Barnard students.
Faculty are expected to be aware of students' accommodation plans and to plan for them accordingly. CARDS is able to consult individually with faculty if they have questions regarding implementing accommodations in their courses.
Barnard and Columbia faculty members are able to view students' accommodation plans within CARDS’s AIM Faculty Portal. Simple guidance on using the AIM Faculty Portal can be found here: https://prezi.com/view/ZQujK3RmwaNIZ3lGB0xp/
Other Recommended Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Guidance for Remote Instruction
Make recordings available through Zoom. This ensures that students in other time zones, with spotty wifi, or those in need of recordings for disability-related reasons have access to course content.
- Post your slides, handouts, and lecture notes on Canvas for the entire class. Please see below regarding making your course content accessible for all users.
- Consider relaxing (or eliminating) attendance requirements. Instead, consider other ways to capture student participation and/or engagement with the material (e.g. discussion board posts; response essays; group work, etc.).
- Review Tips and Strategies for Instructional Continuity provided by the Center for Engaged Pedagogy.
- Documents provided on Canvas need to be accessible to students with disabilities. In general, Microsoft Word documents are most easily read by screen readers and text-to-speech technology. PDFs (particularly scanned PDFs) are not accessible unless they are tagged properly. For scanned readings, we recommend that you contact both CARDS and the Library to attempt to find a digital version of the scan. Use the Accessibility Checker on Canvas/Courseworks before publishing content to your course site.
- Videos uploaded to Canvas should be captioned. If your video does not already have captions and you are not sure how to caption videos, please reach out to CARDS for assistance. You can also watch this helpful tutorial [link: https://www.washington.edu/accessibility/videos/ ] from University of Washington's DO-IT Center.
- Any images included in the course site need an alternative text description. This description explains the image for any visually-impaired users who may otherwise not have access to the image. For additional information on providing alternative text, view this guide.
- For additional guidance, view 20 Tips for Teaching an Accessible Online Course [credit to University of Washington's DO-IT Center)